Situation: The CEO of an early stage company has identified a person to help her as an assistant. This will be her first real employee. Prior hires have been contractors who have been paid on revenue generated. This individual’s salary will be an expense without clear association to revenue. What guidelines do you suggest as she makes this hire? How do you hire your first employee?
Advice from the CEOs:
Create a cash flow projection to make sure that you have the cash to afford an employee.
If you consistently expect 40+ hours of work from this individual, consider a salaried position which will give both of you more flexibility.
Paychex currently handles your payroll and benefits. Work with them to make sure that all labor law compliance issues are covered. Also, consider hiring a labor law consultant to help you avoid minefields.
Do a background check even if you have known this individual for a long time.
Consider working with a professional employment organization that can provide back-office HR support for you.
An employee handbook is unnecessary at this point. However, think through how you will want to handle issues that may come up including vacation, benefits and paid/unpaid leave like bereavement leave. Document these for inclusion in a future employee handbook.
Under the current health care law employers with less than fifty employees are not required to provide health benefits without paying a penalty. This may change as the law continues to evolve.
Situation: A company that has been in business for several generations has been approached by a government official with an unexpected regulatory requirement and a stringent timeline for compliance. This was completely unexpected and it will be disruptive to comply. How do you respond to a regulatory wild card?
Approach the agency and negotiate an extension of the deadline, or a series of steps that will bring you into compliance but under conditions so that compliance does not disrupt your business and workload.
Dig to determine the ultimate reason behind this development. Is it a neighborhood evolution issue where new neighbors want you or your business out of the way? If so, is there a win-win alternative that gives you a new or better location in exchange for moving.
Seek legal assistance – local lawyers may be knowledgeable of the officials involved or their superiors, and will know the language to use to ask for the leeway that you require.
Circle the problem from every angle – look for other city contacts that can assist.
Trade a tax concession for compliance – particularly if the issue is a long-standing situation that has just now been brought forward.
Look for a way to turn the problem into an opportunity by solving the problem uniquely in a way that favors you.
Consider asking them to help solve the problem.
Do NOT respond with an attack. Local officials can be in place for a long time and may hold a grudge.
Situation: A company seeks the best way to introduce a novel health monitoring solution. The challenge is that people don’t want to change their routines. If you can creatively fit into existing routines with minimal behavior change this facilitates adoption. How have you introduced a new solution without asking for a change in behavior?
Advice from Kiran Kundargi:
As the population ages health care costs rise. A solution that can reduce healthcare costs while allowing more seniors to remain in their homes this can significantly reduce health care costs. The sticky part is making this solution a part of the elder’s and their family-caregiver’s daily routine.
Our solution is to seek the low hanging fruit – post-hospital discharge recovery at home. Seniors who have been discharged from the hospital following treatment or surgery often receive strict instructions to take their medication, adjust their diets and engage in regular exercise. This requires changes in the senior’s routine, and non-compliance is a leading cause of readmission.
Effective October 2012, Medicare will stop paying hospitals for readmissions that it deems avoidable. This forces hospitals to take a more active role in follow-up care following discharge. Our online health monitoring service, Nclaves, provides a low cost solution.
Nclaves facilitates communication between the elder and his or her children and grandchildren using Internet and hand-held technology. This enables family to help their senior comply with post-hospital instructions.
We approach this opportunity in four phases.
We start by using the Internet. We have made our solution easy for physicians and hospitals to find. Internet activity is supplemented with presentations to monthly meetings in hospitals. By acting as an information resource on the change in Medicare regulations, we can introduce our solution to those who will suggest it to patients. Early adopters will enable us to build case studies demonstrating both technical viability of our solution, benefit provided to patients, and impact on readmission rates and cost of care.
Next, we will approach large employers. Employers understand that increases in hospital costs will adversely affect the cost of insurance benefits for their employees. We want them to include Nclaves as part of their employee health and wellness programs.
The third step is insurance companies. These companies have the leverage to specify and suggest options to both patients and providers.
Our final step is broad market acceptance. Once both payers and providers are on-board, we will be ready to work through alliances, the Internet and broader public relations and advertising campaigns to build market acceptance.
Situation: Online communities offer the opportunity to leverage crowd sourcing to both solve problems and create new capabilities. How can these communities be leveraged to expand business models?
Advice from Vikas Sharan:
With the simultaneous explosion of digital devices and online communities, the concept of crowd sourcing will only increase. The ability to tap into the crowd sourcing ecosystem will differentiate high performers from everyone else.
If you can think through a problem strategically, and build crowd sourcing capability to scale, you can leapfrog the competition and change the game.
Take the example of ComplianceOnline (CO) from MetricStream.
○ MetricStream started as a company with an enterprise compliance platform. Their vision was to build information and best practices across multiple areas of compliance and vertical industries.
○ Since compliance is a very large area and spans thousands of industries and topics, MetricStream started with building best practices in a couple of compliance topics. To further their vision, they partnered with Regalix to create CO.
○ At CO, MetricStream and Regalix have created an ecosystem of over 20-30,000 experts on different compliance topics. These experts contribute training and best practices on thousands of compliance topics. Without adopting a crowd sourcing model, it would have been very difficult for MetricStream to build expertise across such a diverse range of compliance topics.
Here is the sequence of events that helped to build CO.
CO secured a collaboration with top regulatory officials across a handful of topics. These individuals brought not only credibility, but an initial list of advisers, peers and regulatory contacts to seed the new ecosystem.
From this seed, the ecosystem rapidly grew to a large community which submitted white papers, best practices and training programs.
Using the model first developed with the initial topics, CO has expanded their efforts to thousands of compliance verticals, with 20-30,000 experts contributing information to these verticals.
There are thousands of federal, state and international compliance verticals to which this model can be applied.
Situation: A company has been struggling to meet objectives. Financials aren’t completed on schedule, limiting the ability of the CEO to manage by the numbers. Milestones are behind schedule. The CEO was advised to consider stringent measures, including financial penalties, to force compliance to performance goals. In your experience, are negative incentives effective?
Advice from the CEOs:
There are at least three potential roots of this problem. Have your hired people who lack the skills to perform their functions? Is there a clear plan and set of priorities in place? Or are you as the CEO being consistent in your demands of the team? You need all three to meet your objectives.
Be sure to set SMART objectives: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. In addition, make sure that everyone understands how their performance impacts not only the plans of the company, but their salary and benefits as an employee. Be sure that everyone has the resources to complete what is expected of them.
Be careful if you are considering financial penalties, and negative incentives.
Many studies have shown that positive reinforcement is more effective than negative reinforcement.
If an employee is chronically behind on deliverables, ask what is happening and why they are not getting the job done.
If the response is not satisfactory, and performance doesn’t improve, you are better off terminating the employee than using negative incentives.
Often the question is not one of motivation but one of focus. Focus has to start at the top, and has to be maintained through departmental and team leadership. Make sure that there is proper training in setting and monitoring achievement of objectives throughout your leadership team. It helps if everyone clearly understands what the company is trying to achieve.
Key Words: Objectives, Achievement, Failure, Schedule, Manage, Numbers, Penalties, Compliance, Positive, Negative, Incentive, SMART, Resources, Achievable, Motivation, Focus, Training, Great Game of Business, Jack Stack, Understand